13 December 2007

How To Buy a Digital Camera

Whether finding a replacement camera or shopping for a gift, choosing digital camera can be a difficult decision. Today we are going to go over the different features of a digital camera so that so can make a more informed decision when shopping for a camera.

Zoom is one of the most confusing features of a digital camera. Usually there are two zoom numbers listed; one number is optical zoom and the other is digital zoom. Optical zoom is the camera's ability to move the lens towards the subject to enlarge the image. With optical zoom, there is no loss in quality because the lens is optically enlarging the subject. Digital zoom uses technology to enlarge the image. It can cause the image to become blurry or grainy because it uses the digital processor to manipulate the image. I usually ignore the number indicated by the digital zoom because I don't feel this is a true zoom. Of course, the more optical zoom a camera has, the bigger the lens has to be and therefore the bigger the camera.

The size of the camera can also be a determining factor. Many customers prefer a slim camera for casual use and than can fit in a purse or pocket. When choosing cameras of this size you usually limit the amount of optical zoom to about a 3x. If you go without the restriction on size there is essentially no limit to the amount of optical zoom you can achieve, but typically your standard point and shoot will go no higher than 12x to 15x.

When also handling a camera, some like to have a big LCD screen on the back of the camera to take pictures or to review pictures that have already been taken. Others see the LCD screen as a burden or a battery killer. Personal preference reigns on this decision as it is up to each person what they like. The screen can drain your battery when in use, so take note of how much you use it.

There are two different battery types in use on digital cameras today. Proprietary and standard alkaline are the two choices you are left with to ponder. Proprietary batteries come with their own charger or charging cable and cost around $20 to $50 to replace. Their advantage is that you do not have to pay to recharge them when they are depleted. Standard alkaline batteries are easily found and purchased (usually standard AA or AAA) and can be replaced easily when they are finished. The down side to alkaline is the cost involved to replace them. Of course, you can always tried rechargeable lithium-ion AA or AAA batteries, but these typically don't hold a charge long.

Many people think that the more mega-pixels that they have the better. Which in the overall view is correct, but in most cases anything over six mega-pixels is overkill. Unless you edit your photos on the computer (by cropping or digitally altering) then you probably won't need a high mega-pixel camera. That's not to say that if you find a great deal that you shouldn't go for it, I'm just admitting that it shouldn't be a high selling point (unless you are editing).

Of course your camera has to have some way to store the digital pictures, and this is where the memory comes in. Some cameras offer memory in the camera, but it is usually a small amount; enough memory to hold only a dozen pictures. Most all cameras require a memory card to be inserted into the camera to store the pictures. Different manufactures have different requirements, so make sure you get the correct type of memory. Unless you have a lot of other devices that use a particular kind of memory (or have a specific type of memory card reader), I don't see this being a high selling point.

These are the main points to buying a digital camera. You should prioritize which features you would like to have and then narrow down your camera selections. I suggest you look online for reviews of the cameras that you have selected and use them as a starting point. Of course, nothing beats checking the cameras out in person and seeing what you like as well. Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn't feel great in the hands.

Overall, use your newfound knowledge of the digital camera and find the camera that suits you or its recipient. Taking your time researching can pay off in the long run, so make sure you don't rush. Enjoy shopping for your new digital camera!

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